No, not always. Shit happens in your life, sometimes unrelated to the bicycle. I know we (at least I) try to have as much as possible in my life relate to or revolve around the bike. Crap gets in the way…but still, even when it isn’t about the bike, I am thinking about the bike and thinking about riding.
A long, long time ago…I introduced cycling to my young family. My three kids grew up on bikes and taking family bike rides…even before they could ride their own bikes, I was pulling them around in a trailer. I even pulled them in a trailer on mountain bike rides. I worked in the bike industry so bikes were a part of our everyday lives. Bikes put food on the table. I also instilled in my family the importance a bicycle can have on a society, on the planet and the impact it can have on their individual souls. I used to tell them, nay, still repeat the words of Grant Petersen, “Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world.” So you see…the bicycle and riding is very important to me and I wanted to make sure that the bike was a priority in our lives…I wanted the bicycle to be a big part of their adult lives as well. I wanted them to share it with their families. You know, pass it down, like a family heirloom. And you know what? I honestly believe that they will. Mission accomplished.
…this last weekend I had to say goodbye to my oldest son Nolan. He moved up to Washington to stay with his mother, who he’s missed dearly since coming to live with me 5 years ago. He also wanted to be with his 5 year old twin brothers and finish out his community college stint up there before transferring and really starting his life. Very adult of him…but Christ, it was hard for me. It was a really sad day for me as I will miss him with all of my heart and soul.
But back to the bike.
Here’s the deal. Nolan and I rode together. And we rode together a lot. I look back now that he is gone and think of all of the rides I did by myself while he was home and I am beating myself up a little thinking “Goddamn it I should’ve ridden with him more.” And something that my Uncle Jim told me keeps popping into my head, he said that “the real goal in life was to die with as little regret as possible.” I like that. I’ve liked it from the minute I heard it. But I feel a lot of regret about one thing right now when it comes to Nolan and his recent departure from the nest. And it’s as simple as this….I should’ve ridden bikes with my son more.
Nolan started racing BMX at 4-5 years old. He had the skills and was very proficient at it. He just wasn’t hungry for the “win” like the other kids. He was out riding them, sure…but he didn’t care if he was winning or losing, even though he never placed under third when he did race. He was always just there at the Orange Track, having fun riding his bike.
Well, we did the BMX thing for awhile and then we moved on to the mountain bike. It’s a good thing too, because I was really chomping at the bit to get him out on the trails with me. And once we got out there together it was even more obvious that he was a natural. So I asked him if he would like to try to do some cross country mountain bike races. He did. And he owned it. And I will tell you that I never once remember caring about how he was placing…hell, I don’t even remember one of his finish results. I just remember that he was having a blast and finished every one of the races that he entered. He wasn’t asking about his results either. But again, the kid doesn’t have a competitive bone in his body…and I wasn’t going to push him because it really seemed that it was about the experience and the ride for him before the race and the results. And to me that meant he was “getting it.” Ya know? That he understands. Shit, I know some adults the still don’t “get it.”
But that’s another blog post all together…isn’t it?
But seriously, he really, really loved it. It was such a positive experience for him. Don’t get me wrong the kid really suffered on a few races, the one at Big Bear (8000 feet elevation) was particularly hard on him. It took him forever to finish that race. So long that his brother Bryce was getting really worried and wouldn’t take his eyes off of the last corner before the finish, waiting to see Nolan come through, as you can see in this picture.
Nolan later told me, as he was chatting with me after the Big Bear race, that he actually watched a guy right in front of him break his collar bone on a rough technical section. I asked if he walked that section after he saw that. He said “no, I just picked a different line.” Nice. “That’s my boy” I thought. But Nolan was so beat up after that race…look, here’s a picture. And yes, that’s dirt caked in his teeth.
Here are a few more shots of some of the times he spent racing…
Like I said before, his ability on a bike came naturally. And I think it was because he was riding his very first little bike, training wheel free, at 3 years old. Not to mention that he has been on a bike his whole life since then. As his father, I take quite a bit of pride in that.
Well, as he got older, I took him on more mountain bike rides on increasingly technical trails around Orange County, and he rode them all without pause and with a natural grace in his bike handling skills. I didn’t have to coach him very much, maybe a little on some technique. But for the most part, he was able to ride and clean most, if not all of it.
I look back, and all though we bonded in many ways through out the years, I think riding bicycles together was really our favorite. It brought us so close as father and son, and as friends. The time we spent on two wheels are some of my favorite memories I hold of him and I.
I think Nolan moving and making this change is incredibly brave… I couldn’t do it. His brother is brave like that too…they must get that from their mother. He already knows that he is always welcome back if it is too much for him…or not what he expected/needed it to be for him. He also knows that I will miss him every day and I know he will miss me. But you know what? I know we will make a point to see each other a lot. And I plan on talking with him at least once a day but probably twice. And I will tell you one thing, we will be riding together when he comes down, that’s for sure. I will not let that opportunity slip by me again. Plus, I have a reason to go to the beautiful state of Washington to ride bikes with him. He can show me his favorite trails/rides when I’m up there. That will be awesome.
OK. Whoa…tearing up here. That was not how I expected this post to go. Maybe that’s too much personal info for you and not enough bike shit. I thought it was just the right amount of both…and it’s my blog so….there ya go.
Hey, but all kidding aside, did you catch that spin?
My son moves out and I talk about bikes. Right there. Yeah, it’s a bit obsessive, sure. But it’s easy to do when you have gone out of your way and worked hard to make your passion available to the rest of your family. I made the bicycle an integral part of my families life together. All of our bikes are like two wheeled family members that wait patiently in the garage to take us on the adventures that help us build memories that will last forever.
Kinda beautiful, right? Right.
Try it, if you haven’t yet. If you love and adore bicycles (you’re reading this blog so I assume you do) get your entire family on them. Pronto. The bicycles you choose don’t have to cost a fortune, but they do need to be from your local bike store. Your local bike store will be the most knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to landing you on the right bikes in both size and purpose. You don’t have to be the most fit, wear tight Lycra cloths, clip into tiny pedals, race or be an athlete of any kind to enjoy all of the wonderful benefits of the bicycle. You just have to get on and pedal away. You’ll be surprised at how happy it will make the kids, both yours and the little one inside you. It is such a healthy and positive way to bond with the closest people in your lives…and if you let it in, the bicycle that is, it will change you.
Yes people, I think bicycles are that important.
Live, laugh, love? Oh, you must be riding a bike.
Go on, make it happen. Trust me.